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Ontario extends suspension of jury trials amid COVID-19 state of emergency

Thursday, January 14, 2021 @ 4:55 PM | By John Schofield

The suspension of Ontario jury trials has been extended to at least May 2021, according to a notice to the profession and public from the Superior Court of Justice.

In the wake of state of emergency and stay-at-home order declared by the province Jan. 12, the suspension of jury trials will continue until May 3 and no new jury selection will commence during that period, according to the Jan. 13 notice from Superior Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz. Proceedings that are already in progress may continue at the discretion of the trial judge, it added.

“All non-jury matters should proceed virtually unless it is absolutely necessary to hold the proceedings in-person,” reads the Superior Court notice. “To the greatest extent possible, all other avenues should be explored and implemented. This applies to proceedings throughout the province and will remain in effect until further notice of this Court.”

In cases where in-person attendance is deemed essential, the Superior Court of Justice courtrooms will be subject to a 10-person capacity limit, the notice stipulates.

Ontario Court of Justice Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve issued a message reminding the profession and the public that the Ontario Court of Justice remains open, but urging all parties and counsel to conduct proceedings remotely if at all possible.

“Based on expert advice from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Court will continue to accommodate in-person appearances where they are required to ensure meaningful access to justice,” reads the Jan. 13 notice. “It remains of critical importance that all who attend a courthouse in person be vigilant in maintaining the public health and safety precautions in place at each court facility.”

All notices and orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic are available on the Ontario Superior Court of Justice website and the Ontario Court of Justice website.

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